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Prochlorococcus Marinus Cell Growth, Aggregate Formation and TEP Production under Nutrient Limited Conditions

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Prochlorococcus marinus (MED4), a genus of marine picocyanobacteria that proliferates in open oligotrophic ocean, is one of the most abundant photosynthetic microbes in the world, estimated to contribute up to

Prochlorococcus marinus (MED4), a genus of marine picocyanobacteria that proliferates in open oligotrophic ocean, is one of the most abundant photosynthetic microbes in the world, estimated to contribute up to 10% of the ocean’s primary production. The productivity of these microorganisms is controlled by macronutrient availability in the surface waters. The ratio of macronutrients in the ocean was defined, by Alfred Redfield, as an elemental ratio of 106C:16N:1P. However, the C:N:P ratio varies based on region, season, temperature and irradiance, as well as the composition of the primary producers. In oligotrophic gyres, these nutrient ratios are elevated from the Redfield stoichiometry, but whether this ratio exerts influence on the growth rate of the organism has not been investigated. Elemental stoichiometry of available nutrients can affect the aggregation of organic carbon and exportation of the particles to the ocean depths. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of nutrient limitation on aggregation and transparent exopolymeric particle (TEP) production which aids in aggregation. My findings suggested that nutrient limitation reduces TEP production and does not increase aggregate volume concentration. With continued warming, certain regions of the ocean will become more oligotrophic, which further decreases the nutrient supply available for Prochlorococcus. My research shows that this could lead to decreased exportation of organic carbon matter to the depths of the sea.

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  • 2019-05

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Marine Aggregation interactions of Prochlorococcus and Marinobacter adhaerens

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The changes in marine ecological conditions brought on by warming and stratification of the oceans have radically shifted many marine environments around the globe. This project aimed to better characterize

The changes in marine ecological conditions brought on by warming and stratification of the oceans have radically shifted many marine environments around the globe. This project aimed to better characterize the aggregation behavior of the abundant picocyanobacterium Prochlorococcus marinus, which is hypothesized to dominate over other phytoplankton as the primary autotroph in increasingly warmer and nutrient poor oceans. This aggregation, believed to be mediated through the secretion of sticky Transparent Exopolymeric Substances (TEP), might be key for Prochlorococcus to sink throughout the ocean and serve as a source of carbon to other communities within its environment. Considering the relatively low concentration of TEP secreted by Prochlorococcus when on its own, this study explored the synergistic effect that heterotrophic bacteria and inorganic minerals in the surrounding seawater may have on the aggregation of P. marinus. This was done by inoculating P. marinus and the model heterotroph Marinobacter adhaerens HP15 individually and mixed in cylindrical roller tanks with the addition of ballasting clay minerals into roller tanks to simulate constant sinking for 7 days. The aggregates which formed after rolling were quantified and their sinking velocities and excess densities were measured. Our results indicate that the most numerous and densest aggregates formed when Prochlorococcus was in the presence of both M. adhaerens and kaolinite clay particles. I will discuss how methodology, particularly cell number, may play a role in the enhanced aggregation that I found when Prochlorococcus was cultured together with the Marinobacter.

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  • 2020-05

How cyanobacteria bore

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Some cyanobacteria, referred to as boring or euendolithic, are capable of excavating tunnels into calcareous substrates, both mineral and biogenic. The erosive activity of these cyanobacteria results in the destruction

Some cyanobacteria, referred to as boring or euendolithic, are capable of excavating tunnels into calcareous substrates, both mineral and biogenic. The erosive activity of these cyanobacteria results in the destruction of coastal limestones and dead corals, the reworking of carbonate sands, and the cementation of microbialites. They thus link the biological and mineral parts of the global carbon cycle directly. They are also relevant for marine aquaculture as pests of mollusk populations. In spite of their importance, the mechanism by which these cyanobacteria bore remains unknown. In fact, boring by phototrophs is geochemically paradoxical, in that they should promote precipitation of carbonates, not dissolution. To approach this paradox experimentally, I developed an empirical model based on a newly isolated euendolith, which I characterized physiologically, ultrastructurally and phylogenetically (Mastigocoleus testarum BC008); it bores on pure calcite in the laboratory under controlled conditions. Mechanistic hypotheses suggesting the aid of accompanying heterotrophic bacteria, or the spatial/temporal separation of photosynthesis and boring could be readily rejected. Real-time Ca2+ mapping by laser scanning confocal microscopy of boring BC008 cells showed that boring resulted in undersaturation at the boring front and supersaturation in and around boreholes. This is consistent with a process of uptake of Ca2+ from the boring front, trans-cellular mobilization, and extrusion at the distal end of the filaments (borehole entrance). Ca2+ disequilibrium could be inhibited by ceasing illumination, preventing ATP generation, and, more specifically, by blocking P-type Ca2+ ATPase transporters. This demonstrates that BC008 bores by promoting calcite dissolution locally at the boring front through Ca2+ uptake, an unprecedented capacity among living organisms. Parallel studies using mixed microbial assemblages of euendoliths boring into Caribbean, Mediterranean, North and South Pacific marine carbonates, demonstrate that the mechanism operating in BC008 is widespread, but perhaps not universal.

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  • 2010

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Aggregation of marine pico-cyanobacteria

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Marine pico-cyanobacteria of the genera Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus carry out nearly two thirds of the primary production in oligotrophic oceans. These cyanobacteria are also considered an important constituent of the

Marine pico-cyanobacteria of the genera Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus carry out nearly two thirds of the primary production in oligotrophic oceans. These cyanobacteria are also considered an important constituent of the biological carbon pump, the photosynthetic fixation of CO2 to dissolved and particulate organic carbon and subsequent export to the ocean’s interior. But single cells of these cyanobacteria are too small to sink, so their carbon export has to be mediated by aggregate formation and/or consumption by zooplankton that produce sinking fecal pellets. In this dissertation, I investigated for the first time the aggregation of these cyanobacteria by studying the marine Synechococcus sp. strain WH8102 as a model organism. I first found in culture experiments that Synechococcus cells aggregated and that such aggregation of cells was related to the production of transparent exopolymeric particles (TEP), known to provide the main matrix of aggregates of eukaryotic phytoplankton. I also found that despite the lowered growth rates, cells in the nitrogen or phosphorus limited cultures had a higher cell-normalized TEP production and formed a greater total volume of aggregates with higher settling velocities compared to cells in the nutrient replete cultures. I further studied the Synechococcus aggregation in roller tanks that allow the simulation of aggregates settling in the water column, and investigated the effects of the clays kaolinite and bentonite that are commonly found in the ocean. In the roller tanks, Synechococcus cells formed aggregates with diameters of up to 1.4 mm and sinking velocities of up to 440 m/d, comparable to those of larger eukaryotic phytoplankton such as diatoms. In addition, the clay minerals increased the number but reduced the size of aggregates, and their ballasting effects increased the sinking velocity and the carbon export potential of the aggregates. Lastly, I investigated the effects of heterotrophic bacteria on the Synechococcus aggregation, and found that heterotrophic bacteria generally resulted in the formation of fewer, but larger and faster sinking aggregates, and eventually led to an enhanced aggregation of cells and particles. My study contributes to the understanding of the role of marine pico-cyanobacteria in the ecology and biogeochemistry of oligotrophic oceans.

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  • 2016